Profiling the 50 Most: Dr. Andrew B. Williams

Dr. Andrew Williams with Spelbot robot Nao
Monique Morris of the NAACP congratulates Spelman's Dr. Andrew B. Williams for selection to 50 Most as's John Templeton looks on

Dr. Andrew B. Williams is a recognized leader in inspiring women and underutilized populations to pursue and achieve excellence in computing and robotics education and research.  He is actively involved in recruiting, retaining, and motivating underrepresented students to pursue undergraduate and graduate computing and engineering careers through community outreach events, computer and robotics summer camps, competitions, curriculum development and research experiences.   He is an associate professor and chair in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Spelman College, a historically black college for women in Atlanta, GA.  He is the co-founder of ARTSI: Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact, a National Science Foundation(NSF) funded Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance and the co-Director of ASPIRE: Advancing Spelman’s Participation in Informatics Research and Education, an NSF funded HBCU-UP project.   The ARTSI Alliance involves ten Carnegie I Research institutions and thirteen historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and seeks to increase the number of underrepresented students in computer science and engineering through educational and research projects that improve society in healthcare, arts and film, and entrepreneurship using robotics.   Dr. Williams recently authored the book, “Out of the Box: Building Robots, Transforming Lives” published by Moody Publishers and the Institute for Black Family Development.

Dr. Williams founded and directs the Spelman College SpelBots, the first all-women and African American Four-Legged Robot soccer team to compete in RoboCup, the international robotics and artificial intelligence world championships, in 2005 through 2009.  This past May, Dr. Williams’ SpelBots tied in the championship match at the RoboCup Japan Open 2009 Standard Platform League Humanoid robot soccer competition.  Dr. Williams was a GEM Engineering Ph.D. Fellow at the University of Kansas sponsored by General Electric and became the first African American to graduate from KU with a PhD in Electrical Engineering in 1999.  Dr. Williams and his SpelBots have been featured nationally in Ebony Magazine, JET Magazine, Black Enterprise, CNN American Morning, CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning, Fox 5 Good Day Atlanta, 11Alive News, the 700 Club, Babbie’s House TV show, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Atlanta Daily World, National Public Radio and a host of other historically black newspapers and radio around the country.  The SpelBots are listed in the May 2006 issue of Atlanta Magazine as one of the “45 Atlantans We Love”.  In 2006 Dr. Williams received the Outstanding Mentor Alumni Award from the GEM Consortium.  Dr. Williams and the SpelBots were featured in a TV documentary that was aired on Public Broadcasting Atlanta in December 2007.  Dr. Williams’s principal research interests include distributed artificial intelligence and multi-agent systems, bioinformatics, and educational robotics and has received and helped to secure approximately $6 million of research funding from National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and companies including GE, Apple, Boeing, and Microsoft.   Dr. Williams has published several journal and technical publications in multi-agent systems, robotics, and biomedical applications of artificial intelligence, and has presented his research in the U.S. and internationally in Europe, Asia, and Australia.  Dr. Williams worked this past year for Apple Inc. as a Senior Engineering Diversity Manager in Cupertino, California while on sabbatical from Spelman College.  Dr. Williams has also been employed as an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Iowa, a magnetic resonance imaging software systems engineer for GE Medical Systems and a purchased material quality engineer for Allied-Signal Aerospace Company.  Dr. Williams is currently an associate minister and co-directs the College and Career Ministry with his wife, Anitra, at his church , Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in College Park, Georgia.  He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1988 where he was a member of SCoRMEBE and NSBE.  He received his M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Marquette University where he was awarded the Young Engineer Alumni Award in 2008.

Dr. Williams has been happily married for over 17 years to the lovely Anitra Williams and have three handsome and beautiful children.